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Tapping into social commerce to empower women to feel and look their best
Anna Zornosa is the founder and CEO of Ruby Ribbon, a social commerce apparel company based in Burlingame, CA and New York City. With a network of independent stylists across the country, Ruby Ribbon delivers personalized, at-home shopping experiences to millions of women. Anna started the company in 2011, inspired by the confidence she gained by incorporating shapewear into her everyday wardrobe. Aside from her role at Ruby Ribbon, Anna is also a corporate advisor whose clients include startups such as Trulioo.com, Motista, Inc, Glam.com, and Chloe & Isabel. She has previously held leadership positions at Yahoo!, Knight Ridder Digital, the Cobalt Group, and Topica, Inc.
You went to college for communications. How did you transition from that into where you are now?
ANNA ZORNOSA: Choosing a major in communications when I was entering college was something of a natural choice. There were a lot of changes happening. Broadcast television was starting to make way to cable. There was a proliferation of satellites. There was a sense that there was going to be a lot of change in everything that we think of as communications. Of course, at that point in time, no one could tell that the internet was coming, but there were a lot of fundamental changes that were coming about in communications.
I started working for high tech publications that were covering the proliferation of the computer industry, and all the changes that were happening in the telecommunications. I ended up running for a publishing company that focused on high tech publications. They were advertising in the western part of the United States. My clients were companies like Microsoft and Apple and there, in the mid-1990s, you started to get a sense that something very big was happening. That very big thing, of course, was the internet, and because I was working with these companies I saw very early on that this was, in fact, not just a little bit of change but a really momentous change.
How has technology impacted your industry?
There’s just so much change that’s happening both from technology and from lifestyle that technology has enabled. Women have so many more opportunities to think about how they want to do things, and the sharing economy as a whole has given people more opportunities. When I started Ruby Ribbon, it was around the time that people started thinking about Uber and Airbnb and TaskRabbit—all these companies that allow people to organize their assets in ways that give them more freedom of choice about how they blend their personal lives and professional lives, and that was very attractive to me.
What led you to the social sales model?
I didn’t start by saying that I wanted to have a company whose products were sold in a very social way. I really started with the impulse that I wanted to create, at scale, thousands of jobs for female entrepreneurs that would allow them to have some of the joy that I’ve had in starting businesses and owning my own business. I wanted to figure out a way to do that at scale for other women. And I started thinking about the fact that all of my girlfriends started, you know, standing at the soccer fields flipping out their smart phones, communicating with great big communities of Facebook friends, and saying, “Wow, if you could have technology allowing women to tap into the tremendous social assets that they have while they were earning a living, what would that look like?” That inquiry took me back to a very venerable model—the direct sales model—which has historically been responsible for so much upward mobility and so much flexible work in this country. I started to think, if you really could take today’s social media, today’s technology, a fresh approach to product categories that were technology-enabled, and blend this together, perhaps you could not just make a few jobs for female entrepreneurs but maybe you can end up making thousands of them. That’s what took me in that direction.
Today, Ruby Ribbon is still a very young company. We have over a thousand women who are operating Ruby Ribbon businesses and representing our products across the country. Sometimes they’re hair stylists. Sometimes they are stay-at-home moms. Sometimes they’re teachers who are doing this partly as a way to prepare for their retirement. There’s just huge spectrum of women doing it, and I am so pleased that those women now are starting to make really, really meaningful salaries. We have women who are running their own companies now who are making over six figures. We have women who are regularly contributing to their families, paying the mortgages, paying for all the dance lessons and all the club soccer fees and all of those things. It’s tremendously gratifying. However, a thousand is so small. A thousand means that in almost every market in the United States, no one has heard of Ruby Ribbon. There’s so much opportunity for a woman who wants to do something that just simply allows her to contribute or allows her to have a little bit of fun, or a woman who wants to have a corporate career.
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